By Ernie McCray
Man, I love that Lyric. My tenth grandchild. I recently spent a couple of fun days with him at our family’s Palm Springs getaway. As I got to know him better I couldn’t help but think of Nancy, his grandma, who over twenty years ago decided that we McRobs (combination of our last names, McCray and Robertson) needed a vacation spot, some where close where we could just get away from our everyday lives for a few days. Palm Springs came to be that place.
I was on board right-away except I didn’t understand the “time share” lingo but Nancy spoke the language well and she just put the papers in front of me and pointed to where I was to sign and we were in business. It turned out to be one of the nicest gifts we’ve ever bestowed on ourselves. It always signified to me, a school principal, that the summer was coming to an end and a new school year would soon begin. But I was always – after a week of swimming laps and having it “made in the shade,” literally, with my journal and my pen and whatever book I was involved in, not caring about the placement of prepositions – more than ready to engage kids in discussions of “What I Did This Summer,” more than ready to dive in and make learning as fun as I could get by with in “the system” and that, in and of itself, at times, was a whole lot of fun.
Now, we’re in the Lyric era of this family pastime and he’s up for it. Didn’t seem like it at first, though. He and his mom and dad arrived at our home away from home on an evening a little before we were to head to Las Casuelas, our favorite place to dine. But we weren’t so sure that was going to be a good idea as Lyric was rolled into the living room screaming notes that would break a wine glass, no, make that a carafe, which every one transcribed as “The ride here was the pits! Who the hell’s idea was this?” Being a father of six my mind transfixed on: Cranky baby. Cafe. Been there. Not a lot of fun.
But we were intent on making it work, straining to hide the panic that we could see in each other’s eyes as we walked up to the maitre d station. When they announced “There will be a 45 minute wait,” you could practically hear the “Oh! No!” that echoed in our collective minds as we stood there with our anxiety rising with each inhalation of air.
Lyric, in moments, cried a bit to which there would be an outpouring of peek-a-boos and ga-gas and goo-goos and we’d break into songs about “open shut them” and itsy bitsy spiders climbing up waterspouts which were met mostly by more crying. But then the band in the Palapa Terraza, the lively section of the enterprise, kicked a funky beat and he saw it as a treat and they escorted us in to eat, sitting us in seats where all the action happened to be, people talking loudly and animatedly and we all had a nice time as he settled into the energy of the eatery.
That set the tone for the rest of our vacation together. After he adapted to our evening so well, de-legitimizing our expectations that he was going to get us 86’d from a nice restaurant, we just relaxed and took him all in and he took us all in. What a joy he is to be around. He’s like an alluring autumn leaf on our family tree. And the dude likes to hang out and that’s big in our clan because we are about as laidback as kicked back folks can be.
He got caught up in the love that we showered on him: aunt Nyla swaying him as though he’s in a rocking chair, something he looks forward to eagerly; Uncle Carlos and Laurel, his girlfriend, passing him between each other to get their cuddling in; Maria and I spending time with him while his mom and dad and aunt went out to the pool to relax and play. He made our day. The next day I saw his mom blowing in his face, a technique to make a baby inhale, so she could then dunk him under the water. Nancy and I taught his mom and her sister and brother to swim before they could talk or walk, in the same way. He’s definitely one of us, a water person, perhaps a halibut as his grandmother, a serious ocean swimmer, used to say she had been in a prior life.
He observed every move we made like an eagle eyeing its prey and he turned his little-big head to the sounds that interested him, reacting to my big bass voice with a “Hey, now, what’s that sound?” look on his face.
And like the rest of us McRobs he loves music which makes sense with all the artistic beauty of form and harmony and expression of emotion in his DNA. His dad’s a guitarist and pianist. My parents could tickle the ivories with the best of them. I tap on things and know about two chords on a piano. His aunts and uncles play some piano too and among the crew there are flutists, clarinetists, and trumpeters with a little French Horn on the side.
Around us Lyric will be surrounded by music of all kinds: Dizzy blowing his horn with his big cheeked style, Beverly Sills’ voice soaring to the highest of ranges, BB singing soulfully of pain, James Taylor singing mellow-ly of “Fire and Rain,” Old Blue Eyes glorifying doing it his way, The Godfather of Soul breaking the funk down, Miles stirring some “Bitches Brew” in his cool muted sound, Yo-Yo Ma showing off his virtuosity on his cello in smooth rich tones, Nat King Cole being hip with “Straighten Up and Fly Right!” “Proud Mary” driven with the passion of Tina when she was still with Ike, Michael Franti reminding us it’s “Never too Late” or Billy Joel jamming with a choir in the “River of Dreams” on how that “river is wide and it’s too hard to cross,” Aaron Neville warbling to Linda Ronstadt, “Look at this life I don’t know where it’s going.”
But I sense that life with this little guy is heading to a future filled with hope as I look at the glee he has in his eyes as he assesses his world and pieces together what life is all about.
To borrow from John Lennon, our Lyric is a:
“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,
Of course I already knew that but I’m so glad Nancy got us situated in such a lovely desert town because there couldn’t have been a better place for me to get to know our grandson better and sense just how incredibly beautiful he is.
He’s a keeper.